Gimel Organic

Driving by CCS off Cherni Vrah, I noticed this interesting little shop with a wooden facade and what seemed to be the word “organic” written on the side. I made a mental note of Gimel Organic and visited the shop on my next visit to Sofia, what I found was rather impressive, not because of the assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged goods and wine, but they had two parking spaces outside reserved for customers.

 
The Gimel brand is quite recognizeable. You will find most if not all of the bio/organic shops that sell fresh fruits and vegetables carry Gimel’s brand. The offer a huge assortment of fruits, vegetables and herbs. According to their website they are the largest produce of greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes in Bulgaria. Their products are also available throughout Europe.
This shop is the first for the brand and it features the entire spectrum of what an organic shopper wants, except meat. Unlike most shops they focus on the fresh more so than the non-perishable.
They also have freshly made food items on hand like these cream soups, which are prepared daily and freshly squeezed juices.
I think the location will really cement this shop with organic shoppers that live on the outskirts of the city and Lozenetz. It is a unique shop, but I have some questions about the source of the food, which are primarily grown abroad. This fact raises a larger debate, what is more important to you local, clean and seasonal or year-round availability and certified organic? I personally subscribe to the former rather than the latter, but regardless this rising level of consciousness is trend that I see continuing into the foreseeable future.

23 Arsenalski Blvd./бул. Арсеналски 23
Sofia, Bulgaria 
понеделник до петък (Mon – Fri) – 8:30 – 20:30 
събота (Sat) – 10:00 – 20:30 неделя (Sun) – 10:00 – 19:00

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Zoya BG

The purpose of my visit to zoya.bg was to find some natural massage oil for my baby. Part of his nightly ritual is a full body massage, lucky boy; right! The shop is centrally located in the heart of in my opinion one of the coolest neighborhoods in Sofia, right off Ivan Shishman, near Motto. The shop was started primarily focusing on organic and natural body care, skincare, haircare, bath and body products. They say it was the first shop of its kind in Bulgaria.

I found what I was looking for, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed in their baby and kids selection. I found two different varieties of massage oil one was about 15 leva and the other was 22. This is just my opinion, but I find that their target clientele are young and hip, so they might not be at the stage of their lives where they are looking for a family; again, just my thoughts.

Their offerings have increased significantly to include a wider range of produces and services. They offer organic and natural food products, mostly non-perishable. I was impressed by their selection of sweeteners and sugar alternatives. They also offer a decent variety of seeds and grains available in bulk, plus a selection of books.

Some of their offering include sesame seeds, amaranth, whole quinoa and quinoa flour, hemp, millet, buckwheat, and brown basmati rice just to name a few. The majority of these seeds and grains come from outside Bulgaria, but most of them are organic.

For your convenience, Zoya.bg has a comprehensive website that offers two delivery options, by mail or by bicycle. You can “like” their Facebook page or visit their website often, as they are constantly running special and promotions.
22 Aksakov str 
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria 
Mon – Sat: 9:00am – 8:00pm 
Sun: 2:00pm – 7:00pm 
phone: +359 899 884115 
fax: +359 2 491 8606 

Cabra – Natural Food & Bar

I heard about Cabra Natural Foods and Bar relatively recently, but decided not to wait an check it out. Despite the fact I am neither vegetarian nor vegan, I am love herbivore cookery. I am on this new sort of personal mission to find a “health” food restaurant in Sofia that knows how to cook and season food well. Cabra was pretty good!

The restaurant is located on Oborishte, near the Doctor’s Garden area, but close to Evlogi Georgev. One of the interesting things that immediately surprised me about the decor is the re-use of wooden pallets. They used them not only as fencing, but also as part of the bar inside. If you follow EGL on Facebook, I have been sharing some interesting ways to use pallets as planters for both vegetables and flowers.

One of the main decorative focal points to Cabra’s interior is the awesome chandelier made by the fabulous shop Zona Urbana (24 Angel Kunchev St). The natural hue of the wood is nicely complimented by the bold colors on the chairs. The restaurant is small but they have loft seating as well.

Since it was midway between lunch and dinner. My friends and I decided to share an almond hummus with crisp chips. I was pleasantly surprised that it was delicious and well seasoned. The perfect balance of flavors. They offer a fresh lemonade with ginger and mint, but the only downside was not the flavor, but the fact that both glasses that I ordered, must have been freshly washed or right out of the dishwasher because they were warmer than room temperature and they didn’t include ice. It was really good, so I overlooked this point when I ordered my second glass.
When the chips ran out we all ordered a rye roll, which was surprising. It was quite light for rye, which tends to be dense since rye flour isn’t as refined as white flour. Also, I prefer a crisper and more golden crust, but regardless of my preference the flavor was nice.

Not surprising the quinoa was not great. While I consistently order quinoa if it is on the menu, I find that they seeds them selves are over cooked and rather mushy, in most cases. This dish was tossed with mixed summer veggies. It was served hot, but I would have preferred the dish cold, so the texture and the flavors of the veggies would have had more flavor and texture because it wasn’t well seasoned at all.
All in all quinoa is still a new ingredient, so I can’t judge a place on that alone. I loved the hummus, so I will return in the future to try some of their other offerings.

18 Oborishte St. (ул. Оборище, 18)
Sofia, Bulgaria 1504 
Phone 02/846 8687 
Mon – Fri: 10:30 am – 10:30 pm 
Sat: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm 
Sun: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm

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Sokoni – Indian and British Food Shop

About six years ago Sima Shah and her husband, a young Indian couple moved to Bulgaria to start a real estate business. Longing for ingredients from home, not to be found in Bulgaria had inspired them to start Sokoni – Indian and British Food Shop.

In April 2010, they opened their a shop in Varna and offered online shopping. At first they offered a limit selection, but due to interest they broadened their product lists. Early this year, after much demand they opened their first shop in Sofia, which is still sorting out the wrinkles, such as signage and staffing, but it holds great promise.

My friends and I have found products at that we were unable to find anywhere else in Sofia, even at Andy’s Food, which for the longest time was the only option to finding British food products in Bulgaria. Some of their spice offerings, I have been looking for for some time. Even at the Middle Eastern shops, near the Ladies Market (Женски Базар) could I find black cardamon (used in Garam Masala). One of my friends as through the moon about finding real Rice Krispies to bake treats with her children.

The Shah’s are eager to share their native culture and passion for healthy food with customers by giving out free recipes, education people on the uses of different herbs and spices and an overall healthy way of living.

The shop is located in the “Student Town” area of Sofia, a bit past the Vega Hotel. At present, they do not have a sign on the exterior of the shop and the building number is not visible (at least I didn’t see it). Drive slowly and you will see it across the street from a grocery store. Sima has assured me that a sign is coming soon.

The prices are quite reasonable and their selection is expanding as demand grows. This is a wonderful shop for all you Indian and British food needs.  I am sure if there is something they don’t offer they will do what they can to accommodate your request.

Sofia: 108 Nikola Gabrovski Street
tel: +359 (0) 24436592
Varna: 20 Maria Luiza Blvd
tel: +359 (0) 885 762 542
email: info@sokoni.eu
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Слънце и Луна/ Sun & Moon: InkeTinke

While strolling through Sofia the other day, I came upon Sun & Moon: InkeTinke location that I was previously unaware of.  Unlike their flagship location on William Gladstone St., this shop lacks a restaurant, but still worth adding to your natural grocery shop repertoire.

The shop has small but varied selection of goods, juices, canned goods, herbs, pastas, sweet treats and more.

The decor is relaxed and hip, with plenty of information lining the walls with going ons around Sofia related the the natural and organic scene.

All of your stone ground grain needs will be met and then some with their vast selection. If you have visited their website you can better understand the decisions they make about the numerous nutritional benefits of choosing whole-grain bread and bread product and the stone-ground grain processing methods.

The counter sells fresh bread and other scrumptious baked treats. There are also more grocery items lining the back wall. The lady at the counter was quite helpful and willing to answer any questions that I had about the shop, bread etc…

If you feel like enjoying your baked goods in house, they have a nice little sitting area and reading room. It is quite quaint and inviting.

I really enjoyed this little coffee corner. It could probably use with less counter clutter, but I think that is why it appeals to me. It is gives this warm feeling that you are hanging out at a friends house.

For more info please visit their website or their Facebook page
Uri Venelin st. 1 (close to Shishman st.) 
tel: 0899 92 33 78 
Working time: Monday-Saturday 8.00 – 21.00H Sunday closed
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Зелена Земя/ Green Earth

Yes, another organic shop has opened in Sofia, but here is the kicker… the people involved have ethical principals and a mission statement about the kind of shop they want to operate, which for me holds more weight than other shops that have jumped on the commercialist bandwagon to offer products that people will pay a lot of money for.  Zelena Zemia, while a commercial venture will not bend on their convictions against exploitation and violence towards animals, promoting a healthy lifestyle, concern for the planet and environment, human rights and Fair Trade products.

These ideas are the zeigist of the company which has been a work in progress for nearly 3 years. Zelena Zemia opened its doors a mere two weeks ago.  The shelves have some gaps for new products, but the owners are careful in selecting what they sell.  It is a small shop area-wise, so they need to be picky.

Bionade: available in four flavors Elderberry, Lychee, Herbs and Ginger-Orange

You can also find their products on BG Menu, if you don’t feel like heading towards the center. You can keep up with their product selection and promotions by joining them on Facebook.  The future is bright for this shop and I hope you will take the time to check it out!

Open from 10:00 – 20:00
Telephone: (+359) 02 50 61 41
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Neem Oil Spray

A few years ago, I had a hibiscus plant that I purchased at Metro, which after a year became infested with white fly, while I was over-wintering it inside my house. At first, I noticed that the leaves were yellowing and the over health of the plant was declining.  I was still in my infancy when it came to growing and caring for plants, so I referred to the internet as my main information resource. There were many options for chemical pesticides, but I was looking for something organic with proven results and that is when I stumbled upon neem oil.

Neem oil is pressed from the fruits and seeds the neem tree, which is an evergreen tree native to India and found through out the tropic regions. Indians have been using it as a natural pesticide but, it is also very important in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

In order to have success with neem oil it is important to understand how it works.  Studies have shown that neem leaves fed to rats for 11 weeks resulted in 100% infertility.  What his means for your garden is that the insect and pests that are plaguing your plants will loose the desire to reproduce after prolonged and continuous applications of a neem spray.  I have also read studies that the neem spray decreases the appetite leading to starvation.
Neem oil has been proven to be effective against the following pests:
  • mealy bug
  • beet armyworm
  • aphids
  • cabbage worm
  • thrips
  • whitefly
  • mites
  • fungus gnats
  • beetles
  • moth larvae
  • mushroom flies
  • leaf miners
  • caterpillars, 
  • locusts
  • nemotodes
  • Japanese beetle
The list goes on.  The majority of the information I found on neem oil comes from this source:
Back to my hibiscus, It eventually lost all of its leaves and was just a bare stick. Before it reached that dreadful stage, I ordered some neem oil from the US because I have found it impossible to source in Bulgaria. If anyone has a clue where to obtain 100% pure neem, please share your information. With repeated application, my hibiscus recovered 100% it flowered and now resides in my garden till I can find a more suitable location. One of my neighbors has a hedgerow of hibiscus plants lining the street, so I feel confident it will survive outside during the mild Kyustendil winters. It is my hope that the plant produces enough leaves, so I can brew some tea or distill some hibiscus water for culinary applications, I am thinking creme brulee or macaroons?

Today, I have a bottle of neem spray at the ready.  I usually mix up a batch a week and keep it on my radiator, so the liquid is warm and the oil is easier to re-emmulsify.  Currently, I have a few plants that have taken ill from their proximity to my Mother in-laws sick plants.

One of them is my avocado, which has started showing activity from mealy bugs.  It is still very healthy, but I see buds forming and I don’t want to screw up any chance of it fruiting this year!

I attribute the attack from this Bay Leaf (Дафинов лист) also residing in our winter garden.

I have been treating both plants, but I am more aggressive on my avocado.  I used cotton swabs with alcohol to physically remove the white cottony residue, then I drench the plant weekly with my neem spray.  The entire tree usually uses about 500ml’s of spray.  I have used it on the bay leaf as well, but if you can see the detailed photograph, she has twisted the branches and that is a perfect place for they bugs to dig in and reside.  This might sound selfish, but I want to get the plant healthy enough so I can take a new shoot to care for myself.  

I am also treating one of my rosemary plants for scale.  I’ve read that they are almost impossible to eradicate entirely, but if I can keep them at bay till the spring/summer where the will be outside, I will be happy.  The plant isn’t suffering terribly, but I don’t want to chance it.  I try to inspect weekly to monthly depending on the circumstances and remove any visible scale, then spray.
Recipe:
1 – 1.5t neem oil
1/2t liquid soap
500 ml warm water
1 500ml spray bottle, clean
Directions:
Add the neem oil, if it is not viscous, warm in the microwave or a pot of hot water till fluid, then add the liqud soap. The soap helps the spray to emulsify better and coat the leaves. Let your faucet run till the water is nice and warm, if it is too hot you will melt the bottle or might render the beneficial oils ineffective. Slowly add the water, then shake vigorously to incorporate. Use immediately, if you let it sit too long, it could lose effectiveness.
Drench plants till they are dripping.  Making sure to concentrate on problem areas and not neglecting the undersides of the leaves.  Even spray on the soil to make sure any pests down below are sufficiently  soaked.  For a severe problem, repeat every 2 days.  Once it starts to subsides, reduce to every week then periodically. This is the neem that I am using.  It is available on Amazon. I have also found a source of neem in Bulgaria through Sokoni. You can purchase organic or non in a variety of sizes.
The key to using neem oil is patience and viligance. You will not see results instantly, but you must set reminders for yourself to keep at it and applying regularly.  While writing this post, I thought about he carbon imprint of relying on a tropical oil from India to protect your plants.  I feel I need to look into the sustainability of this choice.  
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